Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Watched It So You Don't Have To: The Congress

Movie Synopsis: An aging actress (Robin Wright, playing a version of herself) decides to take her final job: preserving her digital likeness for a future Hollywood. In return, she receives healthy compensation so she can care for her ailing son while her digitized character will stay forever young. Twenty years later, under the creative vision of the studio's head animator, Wright's digital double rises to immortal stardom. With her contract expiring, she is invited to take part in "The Congress" convention as she makes her comeback straight into the world of future fantasy cinema.

If there is any truth to the phrase, “Misery loves company,” then this is a movie best watched with friends. The Congress is an unfocused attempt to address what transpires on a personal level for those engaged in being movie celebrities as they try to create art AND THEN parlay that into a meditation on identity. The result winds up being the cinematic equivalent of diarrhea; you want to analyze it but what you’ve got it so muddied there’s no hope of making clear sense of it. You’re going to try anyway, though, since you’ve invested two hours in this movie having been suckered in by the false promise of the first 45 minutes. During that time, the movie does give us an interesting set-up, but as soon as we’re cast 20 years into the future (allegedly; the movie is quite clear that where we are in time is not clear) the movie swerves wildly into Being John Malcovich-Meets-Pink Floyd’s The Wall-Meets-Inception-Meets-The Matrix territory. (This abrupt swerve in the movie is barely hinted at in the movie’s trailer, probably for a good reason.) Beyond the 45 minute mark, the movie is mostly animated which would have been fine except that the movie begins to focus on how bizarre it’s trying to be without doing much to advance the plot. Like so many movies, we’re teased by some very deep and intriguing questions but are not given any input on what the writer or director think about those questions, leading to a superficial resolution for our lead character. Moreover, at the movie’s end there is a plot hole too large to ignore: What happened to the world over the course of 20 years Robin is “on vacation” is not explained in the least, a detail that could have been used to provide us with some context for the protagonist’s inner conflicts. While many artsy-fartsy viewers will find this movie delightfully eccentric, being eccentric should not be confused with being clever. Being clever requires knowing exactly what you’re doing. [Interesting fact: The movie was made on a budget of about $11 million and grossed less than a million at the box office. But maybe that was meant to be given that Robin Wright plays a version of herself that makes bad decisions. In real life, she is one of the movie’s producers.]


Maria said...

I really liked the movie. It’s fresh air among today’s shitty superheroe films, where even good actors are being persuade to act. Is a courageous and invites you to think about the state of the art. The movie is not on the US cinemas yet, so you should mention that the BO numbers you talk about are from Europe, where, as predicted, the moviegoers loved it, being european market more artsy oriented.

theoryparker said...

It's telling that you regard all superhero movies as shitty since any movie should be judged on its individual merits. You mention the state of the art (of movies) without realizing that superhero movies are in demand because the technology has caught up to the visual aspect of such stories. The Congress doesn't raise any new questions about the state of movie art and worse, offers no guidance in answering those questions. The state of movie making will surely change when it becomes economical enough and believable enough for studios to use digital actors. That's a no-brainer. As for the box office numbers, The Congress went straight to video in the US due to its poor performance in Europe.